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Cannabis Cafes Open in Thailand

A.J. Herrington

By A.J. Herrington

August 5, 2022

Marijuana joints with cannabis laying on wooden tray at cannabis shop

iStock

Less than two months after Thailand

marijuana, cannabis cafes are already opening in the Southeast Asian nation, giving the country’s residents and tourists alike a taste of the new reforms. The Thai government legalized cannabis for medical use in 2018 and earlier this year, the country effectively decriminalized cannabis.

In Bangkok, the RG420 cannabis cafe in Khao San, an area of the city popular with foreign backpackers, just opened last week. But the new enterprise is already busy with hundreds of tourists each day, leading owner Ong-ard Panyachatiraksa to consider opening additional locations for his new business venture.

“Europeans, Japanese, Americans — they are looking for Thai sativa,”

, referring to popular local cannabis varietals. “Cannabis and tourism are a match.”

In the crowded smoking lounge at RG420, a reference to Rag Gan, a Thai expression meaning “love each other,” U.K. tourist Malik Khan talked to reporters after rolling a joint.

“This country is beautiful, and there’s so much to do here as well,” said 26-year-old Khan. “It (cannabis) adds to the scene really nicely.”

Cannabis Reforms Enacted Earlier This Year

In June, the Thai government removed cannabis from the nation’s list of banned substances, making the nation the first in Asia to decriminalize marijuana. Under Thailand’s new regulations, marijuana and hemp cultivation and commerce are no longer illegal. Restaurants and cafes are permitted to sell foods and beverages infused with cannabis, but only if they contain no more than 0.2 percent THC. Products with higher concentrations of THC are permitted for medicinal purposes only.

The decriminalization of cannabis has led to an upswing in public consumption, leading officials to make attempts at discouraging recreational marijuana use after the reforms were already put in place. Bans on public smoking of cannabis have been enacted, as have prohibitions on selling cannabis to those less than 20 years old.

“The law does not cover recreational cannabis use… and so tourism promotion is focused on medical (aspects),” the national tourism authority’s Deputy Governor, Siripakorn Cheawsamoot, said in a statement.

Restarting a Stalled Economy

Thailand has seen a steep decline in tourism since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, leading the government to view cannabis as a way to bolster the country’s tourism and agricultural industries. Foreign arrivals shrank to two-million visitors in the first half of 2022 from nearly 40 million in 2019, striking a blow to the industry that is normally responsible for about 12 percent of the country’s gross domestic product.

Anutin Charnvirakul, the Thai health minister and deputy prime minister, told CNN before the policy reform was enacted that legalizing cannabis will help foster economic growth and development in Thailand. But he noted that the non-medical use of high-THC cannabis is still not allowed under the new policy.

“It’s a no,”

, referring to the legalization of recreational cannabis. “We still have regulations under the law that control the consumption, smoking or use of cannabis products in non-productive ways.”

But the new policy has essentially made most cannabis activities legal, including home cultivation and consumption. The change has made Thailand the country with the most liberal cannabis laws in Asia, and a leader in reform worldwide.

“One thing is clear. You cannot go to jail in Thailand just for using cannabis any more,” Tom Kruesopon, an entrepreneur who helped persuade the government to change its approach to cannabis,

. “You can go to jail for doing other things, like smoking in public, as a public nuisance, or creating and selling a product from cannabis that you did not get approval for from the Food and Drug Administration. But Thailand is the first country in the world where you cannot go to jail for growing or using the plant.”

A.J. Herrington

About The Author

A.J. Herrington

HIGH THERE MISSION

WE’RE A CREATIVE COMMUNITY — EXPLORING THE SCIENCE, CRAFT, AND CULTURE OF CANNABIS.
WE BELIEVE THAT WE HAVE A COLLECTIVE RESPONSIBILITY TOWARDS ERADICATING THE STIGMA, MISINFORMATION, AND INEQUITIES SURROUNDING THIS PLANT, SO WE CAN UNLOCK ITS TRUE POTENTIAL FOR ALL.